Von Lintel Gallery | Los Angeles

Alex Hedison

A Brief Infinity


The uncharted territory amidst identifiable points is at the heart of all my photographic work. What I refer to as the ‘in between’ is a space and state of possibility both literal and metaphoric. Art, in its longing for connection and identity, offers perceptibility to that which is invisible.

I am drawn to exterior surfaces that reflect the uncertainty of change. The aim of my art practice is to bring attention to states of flux—the indeterminate passages that are neither here nor there—as they defy the predictability of stable conditions. In between familiar waypoints, art inhabits a process of development which is always unfolding.

2020 was a year of tremendous instability. A worldwide pandemic ushered in mandatory stay at home orders, resulting in a prolonged state of limbo. In the midst of a lock-down, the murder of George Floyd ignited a fervent cultural response as systemic deficiencies at the foundation of U.S. culture were exposed. Much like a chemical reaction to opposing elements, that which had previously been immutable was fast converting from inertia into action.

In isolation I felt connected to a process underway. I too, was changing. The usual rhythm of my practice had been interrupted. COVID-19 restrictions prevented me from traveling for work as countries closed their borders, exhibitions were indefinitely postponed, public spaces became off limits. I wasn’t interested in picking up my camera. Instead, I found myself in the darkroom.

Traditional photography requires a camera to record an image and a negative to make a print. Alternatively, the unique process of chemigrams, discovered by Pierre Cordier in 1956, is more direct. Interaction of chemicals and light on photographic paper combine with the use of resistant materials to alternately delay and facilitate change. The unexpected emerges out of nothing onto a blank page.

With nowhere to go, I started improvising.

I soon discovered that when black and white paper is given prolonged exposures to light, miraculous colors appear. With the interaction of photo chemicals, the colors continue to deepen and change.

Using various materials as forms of resistance (clear packing tape, metallic paint, and varnish) I protected the surface of the paper before putting it in the bath. Dousing the sheets in developer, stop and fix, the surface remained unaffected for a period of time due to the layers of protection. Over and over, I moved the paper from one solution to the next until slowly, the chemicals started breaking through the resistance and adding patterns to the color in response to the change underway.

The abstract images that emerged spoke directly to my experience; we were all changing as the pandemic wore on. I couldn’t control the outcome of the images in the darkroom any more than I could control what was happening in the world. Instead, the process revealed itself to me as art began to imitate life.

On paper, bright hues alchemized from pale pink to darker ruddy tones as if reflecting a raw body of flesh underneath the skin. Details within the rosy colors appeared like tiny kinetic particles and cells viewed under a microscope. By intention, the work chronicled the alchemy of
change — unpredictable, fleeting and alive.

Traditionally, a photograph is an impression made of an event eventually printed from a negative. This series of work was made in the opposite order:

The chemigrams resulted from the process itself as the chemistry broke down the preventative materials on the paper’s surface and made way for change.

I photographed the chemigrams from one minute to the next, making records in an abstract and shifting landscape.

Each image is a record of a change underway, both personal and objective, a split-second in a state of flux brought into view within a single frame, a ‘forever now’ represented in what Cartier-Bresson referred to as “the decisive moment.”

Finally, I printed the images adding the silver metallic paint initially meant to block the chemical process from occurring. I used this same reflective material and painted directly onto the final photographic prints.

The means of resistance are mutually additive to and preventative from the experience of becoming, in art and life. The metallic paint in both applications emphasizes not only the cyclical nature of the project but also the use of silver bromide in early photography.

The images themselves serve as reflections of happenings which occurred in an instant—moments in time eclipsed by other moments, ad infinitum. A single instant marked by unexpected color and fluctuating patterns indicating what once was and that which is yet to come — a brief infinity.

The process continues. The original chemigrams I keep in a drawer are still sensitive to light. They continue to change even as I write this. Eventually, they will fade to black. Momentary impressions of bright colors and wild, unexpected patterns will disappear like trails from fireworks vanish into the night sky. All that will be left is the memory of them, a record of an event made in the form of a photograph.

Artists can be said to enter a liminal state during creativity, a sort of anxious invisibility while waiting for a creative birth. This is the case for me, perhaps more with this work than ever.

These photographs are a reflection of me, of us, of a time that once was. They are a record of a change underway, a process of becoming captured in a moment, fleeting and infinite.


- Alex Hedison, October 2022 / Paris



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